I have a question for all parents: Have you ever had to pay for apps you didn't want because your kids got a hold of your gadget? I bet you have.
More and more parents are complaining that purchase settings on gadgets aren't strict enough, so kids can buy stuff without their permission. There are plenty of in-app purchases kids can make without your knowledge. That's why my son knows that if he wants to buy upgrades in a game app, it's going to come out of his allowance.
Most of those games have more in-app purchases than you can count. Each one usually costs $1 to $2. That can add up quickly when your child is trying to beat Candy Crush. Some parents have lost as much as $200!
That's why the Federal Trade Commission is going after Google, Apple and Amazon to try and get back some of your lost money and make it harder for kids to make unauthorized purchases in the future. Apple already agreed to pay out $31.5 million and now Google has settled with Android customers, too.
Instead of fighting the FTC's complaint like Amazon, Google has decided to settle. The company has agreed to pay at least $19 million to completely refund customers who had to pay for unauthorized purchases from their Android gadgets.
Google has gradually increased its purchase authorization settings over time, but they're still pretty lax. After you enter the password for your child once, they don't have to enter it again to make purchases.
In the first year that Google permitted in-app purchases, the company did not require any password or other verification to bill the user through the Play Store. By 2012, Google introduced a pop-up box that asked for a password and informed consumers about in-app purchases, but the pop-up didn't tell the consumer how much they were being charged, nor did it tell them that entering a password would open up a 30-minute window for kids to go crazy with in-app purchases before they had to enter the password again.
The Google complaint can be traced back to a critical letter sent from Apple. After Apple settled, it sent a letter to the FTC accusing Google of similar behavior. Google and Apple have both instituted stricter policies for in-app purchases to avoid paying settlements in the future.
Do you think your child has racked up Google charges without your permission? Google says it will contact all customers who made in-app purchases in the past to let them know how they can get their refund.